Monday, June 27, 2016

Appsmash to Gamify - From Leaderboards to Quests

Although many of us agree that gamifying your classroom can provide benefits in terms of engagement and relevance for the students. Many of the teachers I have talked to have this idea that gamification is too hard, or that you can only do it by purchasing an app or some other tool, which may or may not limit what you can do. However, this is simply not true. With the myriad of free tools at our disposal and a little creativity, you can create your own gamified world for little to no money. Gamification is about creating a game-like experience, not about creating an actual game.

Before we go any further, take a peek at my "Island of AdVENTURE", where our ultimate goal is to take over the world. That is the simple storyline for my classroom. The benefit of such a broad and vague topic is that it will never be "done", and gaming elements can easily be added as they are needed. I talked about the decision to adopt a single storyline for all my classes in a previous post. If interested, you can visit Gamification Year 2 - The quest continues.

So, what was needed to create the Islands of AdVENTURE experience?

Game Website:  

If you have been here before, you know that my go to place for this is WIX, because it allows for ultimate flexibility in item placing, allowing you to embed practically anything you may wish to add. WIX is free to use, and gives you one place to create as many web sites and subpages within a site  as you need. On the game website itself, I like to add links to my blog, class calendar, and all of our classroom policies, procedures and even the green sheet. This gives the students a central place to go for everything related to the gamified classroom, and completely eliminates any "but I didn't know..." moments. These different documents are added as tabs, or in the case of the classroom management stuff, an interactive Thinglink image that gives access to all documents with a simple click.


This is the only item in my gamification arsenal that I paid for: Profantasy Campaign Cartographer. I could have used art from other sources and/or even used maps from Google Mapmaker, but creating my own allowed me utmost flexibility to include what I wanted, down to shaping the islands to represent grade levels, and creating distinct homes for each class.

This was also where I began to Appsmash. The islands on the game website are linked to the grade level houses and leaderboard using "invisible" shapes that act as buttons. The quests inside the houses are linked using interactive Thinglink images. The reasoning for this is simple. I wanted the students to be able to quickly and easily identify the quests they have, without cluttering the images with a lot of text or buttons. By hovering over each icon, students can quickly access the quests they are undertaking without any instructions from me regarding the icon that was used to represent a specific assignment.

XP and Leaderboards:

In my class, students gain experience points (XP) by blogging consistently and by completing the different projects they work on. Whatever you choose for XP, I recommend that you do not tie it to behavior, but rather mastery of skills or concepts. Just like in games and real life, XP does not "go down". Once you gain experience, you never get experience taken away. 

To create the leaderboard(s), I use Google sheets. I previously shared how to create one for a single class. This year, I am adding a leaderboard that functions much the same way, but since I am working with a single storyline, I needed to create one that could rank all my students from different classes and give us a way to compare classes. The following video will show you how.


In my project based learning (PBL) environment we have two types of quests. The PBL Quests that culminate in a Boss Battle (i.e. the project product itself) and Mastery Quests. The PBL Quests are created using WIX for the bigger projects or Tackk for smaller assignments. Both allow embedding and manipulation of the color schemes, backgrounds, etc. giving you the opportunity to create a different aesthetic feel for each quest. The PBL Quests are embedded into the class game site and linked through Thinglink.

The Mastery Quests are the worksheets (level 1), quizzes (level 2) and tests (level 3) I use with students.  This simple renaming and leveling of the different types of work, tells the students how they need to prepare, and gets them excited about completing them. Don't you agree that it is much cooler to complete a Mastery Quest Level 3 than to take a test?

To create the first two types of Mastery Quests, I use the capabilities of Mastery Quests Level 1 usually have links, videos and/or simulations embedded (example) and Level 2 may still have some supports (example). For Level 3, you can still use if you wish to give access to articles or graphs that the students must analyze. For a more "traditional" level 3 Mastery Quest, however, I use Google forms.

I usually do not embed the Mastery Quests in the game website itself, but rather give access to them by posting the individual URLs for the different assignments on our Edmodo stream. Of course, they can be shared in Google classroom or whatever other way you currently have to distribute online work.

Class Currency:

The behavior rewards, if you would like to have them, can be handled in several ways. In the interest of Appsmashing, you could use Class Dojo, and have it embedded into your WIX page. However, that has never really worked for me. I find it cumbersome to walk around with a device and scrolling when I want to assign behavior points. For this I go old-school, and use my school's paper based currency (Patriot Bucks), giving them out as needed. Since they are physical objects, I do not have to create a way to manage them. The "store" is created again using a Thinglink  embedded into the WIX class game page so that students can simply hover over the different items, and check "prices". 

What do you think? Have you tried gamification in your class? Please share your experiences.